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SEC A Critical Partner in Formation of the Center Progressive 

1 In a bold and courageous step to 

'l RO G RE S S I VE strengthen leadership development in the 

I j^ United Church of Christ, the Southeast 

jKT \\ F ^1 F \A/ A I Conference is proud to partner with Local 

^|V , \ i V Church Ministries (LCM) and Hope For 

A New Leaders -New Churches -New Hope v r 

' Peace and Justice (H4PJ) to announce the 

creation of the Center of Progressive 
Renewal (CPR) based in Atlanta in the Southeast Conference office. The Center 
for Progressive Renewal is a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to 
train leaders to start and grow the 21st century Progressive Church. 

The Southeast Conference is a valued partner in the formation of the Center for 
Progressive Renewal, giving one of our staff, Rev. Cameron Trimble, to serve as 
the President and Co-Director of CPR. In recent years, the Southeast Conference 
has found that having partners in the national setting of the United Church of 
Christ, in its seminaries, in churches, and among other conferences, as well 
ecumenical partners who share our passion for a Gospel can strengthen our vital 
witness in the South. "The Center's formation provides us an opportunity to 
gather these partners to build churches and to identify and equip leaders for a 
future of great hope," says Tim Downs, Conference Minister of the Southeast 

The Center for Progressive Renewal will work with the staff of the Southeast 
Conference and other conferences to plant new UCC churches as well as 
revitalizing our existing churches. By focusing on leadership development, CPR 
will strive to raise the standards of leadership in our lay leaders and clergy 
through practical training in church growth and development. "This center can 
be a bridge between where we are and where we're going as a denomination," said 
LCM's executive minister, the Rev. Steve Sterner. "Affiliated with the UCC but 
open to partnerships with other progressive churches, the center can give us the 
structural flexibility we need to adapt to opportunities for church growth in a 
rapidly changing culture." 

The new Center will serve existing and future UCC congregations but will be 
organized as an independent non-profit agency. "This is a new model for 
sustainable church growth and church revival in a reality of diminishing financial 
resources," says the Rev. David Schoen, leader of LCM's Congregational Vitality 
and Discipleship Ministry Team. "It gives us the means to build partnerships with 
other denominations and to seek financing from foundations that normally would 
not fund a denominational office." 

"The Center aims to equip congregations and clergy with the best practices for 
reversing membership decline," Trimble told the partners. "Every week we close 
three churches in the UCC, and every week we plant 0.7 new churches— and of the 
latter I can't tell you how many will survive. It's easy to do the math. I know you 
and I love this church too much to allow membership decline become an 
irreversible trend. We'll be drawing on the skills of the best ecumenical 
practitioners in church development and renewal who can serve as a pool of 
consultants and coaches for the denomination," Trimble told the board. "Our 
ambition is to become the Alban Institute for new church development. At 
present there is no ecumenical center serving the development of new 
congregations in progressive denominations. This is a vacuum we aim to fill." 

Replacing the model of a centralized denominational agency planting new 
congregations, the Center "will return to a proven strategy: that healthy 
congregations give birth to new congregations," Trimble said. "When we 
conducted autopsies of 50 failed new church starts, we discovered that in each 

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11/24/09 8:56 AM 

Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ - News 

case they lacked an external support system. But the success rate increases when 
denominations aggressively practice 'church multiplication' with existing 
congregations as the starting point. 

"We need to be building church-birthing partnerships with the UCC's best asset: 
its local congregations," Trimble said. The Center will focus on these goals: 

* Increase the number of new churches planted in critical regions, especially 
regions of the country with the highest population growth rates. 

* Increase the number of trained, competent new church developers and 
revitalizing pastors in the UCC. 

* Build a seminary-based training program that prepares current and future 
clergy to plant new congregations or renew existing churches. 

* Strengthen the commitment of conference staff to support new church 

* Develop models for vocational placement, internships, partnerships and other 
creative approaches to support new church leaders and congregations that are 
planning new churches. 

"The Progressive Renewal Team is committed to first-rate execution and 
outcomes," said Trimble. "We deeply value measurable results and commit to 
providing the United Church of Christ with the best possible services available to 
mainline denominations. We understand that this is a significant decision and 
investment on the part of all of our partners. With that in mind, we will deliver 
unquestionable quality and results, and we are willing to be held accountable for 
reaching our mutual goals." 

The Center's website at defines "progressive 
Christianity" as "a faith that believes God's family includes all people... a faith for 
which millions of Americans hunger." 

According to the website, progressive Christians accept that "God's people are 
responsible for caring for the environment, the poor, sick and vulnerable; that 
education, healthcare and civil liberties are vital to abundant life and therefore 
the desire of God for all people; and that truth is found more often in honest 
grappling with the questions than in absolute hierarchical pronouncement of the 

The Rev. R. Joaquin Willis, the LCM board's vice-chair and pastor of the Church 
of the Open Door in Miami, said he believes the new Center will "focus on what it 
takes to get new congregations off the ground." 

"I was a new church pastor 20 years ago, and I know the pressures a church 
planter faces," Willis said. "I hope this Center will help the UCC learn and apply 
the best ecumenical practices for church development." 

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